The Orfalea Foundation: A Focus on the Youth of Santa Barbara and the World

By | May 29, 2015

The Orfalea Foundation is an organization in Santa Barbara that focuses on early childhood education and youth development by providing financial support and guidance to charitable organizations. It consists of several different arms including the Orfalea Family Foundation, which is the arm that looks after the areas of personal interest of the Orfalea family. Another arm, the Orfalea Fund, is a separate, not-for-profit organization, and it exists as part of the Santa Barbara Foundation. In addition, this arm provides funding for grants that are distributed by the Santa Barbara Foundation. These arms are often collectively referred to as the Orfalea Foundation.

Ken Slaught

A Focus on Early Childhood Education

The Orfalea Foundation has three main focus areas. The organization’s focus on early childhood education has been a priority for the Orfalea Foundation since 2000. The investments range from supporting the quality of preschool education centers to supporting healthy food and habits of young children. The foundation also provides outdoor learning opportunities for young children. The organization also supports a directors’ retreat for directors of early childhood education programs to find support and build ideas through annual conferences. One of the organizations supported by the Orfalea Foundation is the Storyteller Children’s Center, a center for early childhood education for children who are either homeless or at risk. The Storyteller Children’s Center provides full-time and tuition-free early childhood education for 42 children every year. The Storyteller Children’s Center believes that it takes a village to raise a child, and the Storyteller Center team consists of educators, administrators and a board of directors including Kenny Slaught.

A Focus on Learning

The Orfalea Foundation also has a focus on general education and learning. The organization has donated over $45 million in funding to educational programs in Santa Barbara and the surrounding counties over the last seven years. The foundation also contributes to state and national programs. Their interests in education focus on young learning, but they also work to support students in pursuit of higher education. By working with both non-profit school programs as well as developing partnerships with universities in California, the Orfalea Foundation has provided both scholarships and career support to students throughout the state.

A Focus on Youth Development

The third main focus of the Orfalea Foundation is within general youth development programs. With a focus on leadership skills, the foundation works to facilitate initiatives that take place outside of normal school events. The purpose of these events is to provide an opportunity for both learning new skills as well building mentorships and connections with positive adults. These programs aim to give a sense of belonging to students as well as a sense of usefulness by showing students that they have a voice both in their lives and in the world. The REACH Initiative is the capstone of the work the foundation does in the area of youth development. The REACH Initiative accepts applications from students in their sophomore year of high school to join a four-year initiative that would last through their second year of post-secondary education. The project recently took students on educational adventure field trips that include programming that is focused on skill building and community involvement.

The Orfalea Foundation has been working to serve the Santa Barbara area for many years by working with the community to provide better education opportunities for children both in and out of the classroom.